The past few years have seen a meteoric advancement in the state of tech-driven innovations within the dark web economy.
The occurrence of such changes have been accompanied by the high demand for cryptocurrencies among darknet vendors and buyers who aim to benefit from the promises of online anonymity and security.
Similarly, the application of secured browser technologies have enabled dark web actors to operate without fear of the long arm of the law – the trading of illicit goods and services has shown a tremendous increase both in terms of scale and sophistication.
For blockchain firms that continuously monitor the corridors of the dark web, experts have come out to acknowledge some of the key reasons why dark web and cybercriminal markets are thriving.
Dark Web Markets Are Profitable
Dark web marketplaces have recorded booming business over the years, with darknet drug markets in places such as Australia proving to be highly lucrative to the traders involved.
According to a study conducted in 2019, cybercriminal activities rake in an astounding $1.5 trillion in annual revenues, with $860 million accounting for drug and weapon sales.
Ransomware groups like Maze have been aggressively recruiting hackers in dark web markets in a bid to scale their activities and attack more corporate establishments.
In the context of darknet ecommerce websites, hacker platforms continue to meet the huge cybercriminal demands, even as threat actors strive to make the most of their illicit business.
Anonymizing Networks Continue to Grow
As already mentioned, the application of anonymizing networks have played an all-important function in enabling dark web actors to operate without the fear of disruptive law enforcement interference.
As it stands, the TOR network remains to be the most dominant anonymizing network to date – it boasts of an impressive 2 million active online users that exploit the service’s offerings. In the technical aspect, it has been reported that Tor has expanded its bandwidth capacity in order to take up the increasing user load.
According to the Tor blog, the network has always worked to improve its operational and analytical capabilities – with current statistics reporting the existence of approximately 30,000 hidden services, all of which consume 5 terabytes of data every single day.
Indeed, the significant growth registered within the Tor network has driven massive growth within the dark web markets as its user base continues to advance.
Cryptocurrencies Are Central to Dark Web Transactions
The anonymity offered by Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have contributed immensely to the expansion of dark web commerce.
Digital currencies serve to enable the exchange of goods and services between buyers and sellers while remaining anonymous through the entire process. Thus, the ability for criminals to trade among themselves through trusted transactions has encouraged even more people to explore darknet possibilities.
In fact, the 2020 Crypto Crime Report by blockchain firm Chainalysis reflected on the prevailing situation within the dark web, with rather interesting results.
According to the report, a small decline in dark web crypto sales was witnessed in the year 2018 – the year 2019 was marked by a 70 percent increase in total darknet sales with over $790 million worth of crypto being traded within the study period.
In highlight, the study intimated that dark web markets have managed to increase their share of overall incoming crypto transactions.
Cybercrime Has Become More Lucrative
Cases of ransomware attacks have been on the rise in the past few years, with cybercriminals resorting to shutting down entire computer networks and demanding ridiculously huge payments in ransom.
Studies have intimated the rise in frequency in ransomware attacks, although experts indicate that some of the most costly and dangerous online attacks have continue to be resolved off the courts. Cases of organizations choosing to quietly pay off hackers have made it hard for analysts to understand the full scale of today’s ransomware attacks.
Otherwise, new data indicates that in 2019 alone, about 205,280 entities were affected by ransomware attacks
Importantly, the dark web and cryptocurrencies continue to pay a central role in the planning and execution of ransomware attacks against individuals, organizations and government agencies. The fact that a host of organizations and cyber insurance companies have continued to pay out hackers has led to the increase in popularity for dark web-enabled cybercrime – with the eruption of new ransomware attacks with sophisticated features.
Organizations Have Become More Vulnerable to Attacks
The widespread digitization of both private entities and governmental organizations have led to a significant increase in options available to dark web cybercriminals.
Modern organizations have responded to the digital revolution, which is also associated with onset of the information era, by moving a bulk of their operations online. The paradigm shift has resulted in the expansion of attack surfaces, which are exposed to the aggressive anonymity-savvy cybercriminals of today.
Based on the aforementioned profitability of cybercriminal campaigns, hackers have started aiming for even more lucrative attacks that are largely mediated by dark web platforms and cryptocurrencies.